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How to Grow Artichokes: A Complete Guide with Photos

Let’s talk about how to grow artichokes! With their delicious edible heads, beautiful silvery foliage, and stunning unique flower blooms, artichoke plants are definitely worthy of a spot in the garden! Artichokes can be grown as an annual, or as perennials in many zones.

This guide will explore everything you need to know to grow artichokes, including ideal growing conditions, popular artichoke varieties, how to start from seed, when and how to harvest artichokes, organic pest control, how to prune and divide artichoke plants, how to prepare and eat them, and more!

We grow artichokes to eat as well as an attractive ornamental in our landscape: tucked in raised beds, wine barrels, and in perennial beds with other pollinator plants. Artichokes will always hold a special place in my heart. Growing up, they were one of my favorite special meals that my Dad made for me. I always think of him when we harvest our own now. I wish he could try one… because homegrown chokes are the best!

What is an artichoke? 

Did you know that artichokes are part of the thistle plant family? More specifically, they’re a domesticated variety of the wild cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), which is native to the Mediterranean region. The edible portion that we’ve all come to love and enjoy is actually an immature thistle flower bud that hasn’t yet bloomed. And once they do bloom, artichoke flowers are absolutely stunning – and a favorite for pollinators! 

Artichokes are now grown far and wide, though they thrive in mild coastal climates. Fittingly, the temperate Central Coast of California is known as the artichoke capital of the world – especially Castroville and Watsonville. With its mild winters and cool foggy summers, the region produces nearly all of the artichokes commercially grown and sold in the country. 

Nutritionally, artichokes are rockstars! They’re rich in antioxidants, fiber, folate and vitamin C. They also offer a respectable amount of plant-based protein: 5 grams per cup! Artichokes contain natural probiotics, prebiotics, and inulin, meaning they’re excellent for gut health too.

A bee is nestled into the purple pistils from an artichoke bloom collecting pollen, if you grow artichokes, leave a few to flower for the pollinators.
Hello gorgeous! An artichoke flower in bloom. This head would no longer be edible.
A bee climbing the purple pistils of a blooming artichoke in search of pollen.
High in pollen, bees are always allll over ’em!

Artichoke Varieties

  • Green Globe is a classic artichoke variety; what you’re very likely to see in the grocery store or garden center. The plants produce 3 to 5 large, round artichoke buds that are 3 to 5 inches in diameter. Many Green Globe varieties have been improved to have less spines on their leaves. 120-180 days to mature from seed, depending on exact cultivar.
  • Imperial Star is another very common and popular artichoke variety. This includes Imperial hybrids like ‘Tavor‘: a highly-productive, virtually spineless artichoke variety. Imperial artichoke varieties produce 6 to 8 large, round green artichokes similar to green globe, and are often kissed with purple streaks. Imperial Star varieties are adapted to a broader range of climates (including more heat tolerance) than Green Globe. 85 to 90 days to maturity.

  • Violetto (aka Violetto di Romagna) is a purple artichoke variety. It produces abundant smaller, oval or elongated flower buds – about 3 inches wide and 5 inches long. They contain very little inedible fuzzy choke if harvested young and tight, though the leaf tips usually have spines. Hardy in zones 6 and above. 85 to 100 days to maturity. 

Beyond these few popular cultivars, there are dozens of other unique and less common artichoke varieties! We grow several different types, but one of our favorites is Wonder: a high-yielding, spineless, artichoke variety with large meaty hearts. (That’s what is shown in most of the photos in this post). Some gardeners report that purple artichoke varieties are more challenging to grow than green varieties; something to keep in mind for beginner’s. 

A wicker basket full of freshly harvest green artichokes. They are large, round, and tightly leafed.
Wonder artichokes, our current favorite variety to grow
A close up image of a purple artichoke growing on a silvery green stalk.
A purple globe artichoke

Are artichokes annuals or perennials?

Artichokes grow as perennials with ease in zones 7 through 11, where the plants can live for up to 8 years. In temperate climates with little-to-no frost (zones 9-10), artichoke plants will grow right through the winter! Otherwise, the above-ground portion of the plant is usually cut down for winter, but the roots survive under the soil and will re-grow fresh artichoke plants in spring. 

It’s also possible to grow artichokes as perennials in zones 5 and 6 if they’re offered additional protection during winter. For example, by planting artichokes in a sheltered location, moving a pot indoors, and providing ample deep mulch on top to insulate the roots during freezing conditions. 

Otherwise, artichokes are grown as annuals in lower zones. Folks with short growing seasons or those growing artichokes as annuals should look for fast-maturing varieties and ones known to produce well in their first year of growth, such as Imperial or Colorado Star.

DeannaCat is standing next to a raised bed full of mature artichoke plants. She is holding three harvested artichokes by the stems and the plants in the bed are about a foot taller than her.
2 year old artichoke plants that came back with a vengeance after being cut back

When to plant artichokes in the garden

Spring is the best time to plant artichokes in most places, and they’ll be ready for harvest by fall. Folks growing artichokes as perennials in zones 9 and 10 have a more flexible planting schedule, and can add artichokes to their garden essentially any time of year. In fact, fall planting is often recommended for zones 10 and 11. 

To grow artichokes from seed, the slow-growing seeds need to be started indoors in mid to late winter – 10 to 12 weeks before the last frost date in your area. On the other hand, buying seedlings will give you a great head start.

When grown as annuals, artichoke seedlings require a period of vernalization (a couple of weeks where temperatures are below 45°F, but above freezing) in order to produce edible flower buds that same year. So, plant artichoke seedlings outside in early spring when it’s still cool out, but protect them from frost! Alternatively, you can take artichoke seedlings outside (or to a cold place like your garage) to expose them to cool temperatures before planting. Perennial artichokes will be naturally vernalized each winter, so no further steps are needed.

A purple artichoke globe is emanating from the center of a silvery green plant. Its dark purple hue is quite a contrast to the silver green that surrounds it.

How much space do artichoke plants need?

Artichoke plants grow quite large – reaching 4 feet wide and 6 feet tall, or larger! Therefore, it’s best to space artichoke plants at least 3 to 4 feet apart. Since artichokes can be grown as perennials, make sure to plant them somewhere they can stay awhile. Artichokes grown as annuals will likely not get quite as large as perennials plants, so you may be able to get away with tighter spacing.

As the years go by, artichoke plants divide below the soil to produce more plants, forming clusters. They’ll eventually grow into very dense bushes, when you’ll want to carefully thin and divide them – and get free artichoke plants! Read more on pruning and dividing artichokes below. 

Two small artichoke plants growing amongst a raised bed of bachelors buttons, cosmos, chamomile, and sunflowers.
Two artichokes in their first year of growth (one hiding behind the flowers), spaced about 3-4 feet apart in opposite corners of a modest 3×5 foot bed.
A raised bed full of growing artichoke plants with artichoke globes emanating from the tops of the plants.
The next year, the bed is now overflowing with artichokes in their second year of growth. After they were cut back the first year, the plants regrew as clusters – which I thinned down to two stalks per cluster.
A raised bed with an arch trellis inserted into on end, the other half of the trellis is in another bed that is not pictured. Snapdragons, nasturtium, and artichoke plants are growing in the raised bed. Oak trees and open space are in the background.
The same bed a couple months later – after pruning and thinning some of the lower leaves, and some of the plants are leaning from the weight of their height and buds.

Can you grow artichokes in pots?

Yes, within reason. Because artichokes grow so large (and enjoy ample water), they perform best in raised beds or planted right in the ground. However, you can also grow artichokes in large containers such as half wine barrels, whiskey barrels, or other pots that are at least 18 inches deep and wide at minimum. The more room they have, the more healthy and prolific they will grow! Ensure the pot or container has drainage holes.

A half wine barrel is the focus with a younger artichoke plant growing in it. Beyond is a pollinator border with yarrow, lavender, salvia, scabiosa, and various other flowering plants.
A happy first-year artichoke plant in a wine barrel planter

Artichoke Growing Requirements: Sun, Soil, Water, Fertilizer

  • Sun: Artichokes thrive in full sun to partial shade, with at least 4 to 5 hours of direct sun per day.

  • Temperature: Artichokes do not like excessive heat, which can cause tough bitter chokes or premature flowering. Artichokes’ ideal growing temperature is between 60 and 80 degrees F. Gardeners in hot climates should plant artichokes in a location that receives afternoon shade, or offer protection via shade cloth if needed.
  • Soil: Artichokes grow best in fertile, well-draining soil. Amend soil with well-aged compost before planting, and add potting soil or horticultural sand to clay soil to increase drainage.

  • Water: Don’t be shy with water! Artichokes grow best with regular deep water, where the soil is maintained consistently moist. Without enough water, the plants will droop (especially in hot conditions) and the edible leaves will grow thin, tough, and papery… not nearly as tasty to eat! Large, established plants require more water than immature plants. Mulch around the base of plants to reduce evaporation, and insulate the roots from temperature swings.

  • Fertilizer: Artichoke plants are fairly heavy feeders. Add aged compost and organic matter to the soil, along with routine feedings via gentle organic fertilizer. We top-dress around the plants with a balanced slow-release organic fertilizer in spring and fall, plus water with compost tea a few times per year. 

A large plant with silvery green foliage and two purple globes growing out of the top of the plant is growing amongst yarrow, figs, jasmine, and an avocado tree.
Artichokes growing in partial shade

Growing Artichokes from Seed 

You can grow artichokes either from seed or buy seedlings (small plants) from the nursery. We’ve done a bit of both! One benefit of growing from seed is having more options to select the exact varieties you want to grow. However, artichoke seeds are very slow to germinate and grow, so starting from seed does take some planning and patience!

To grow artichokes from seed, sow seeds indoors during winter – about 10 to 12 weeks before your last spring frost date. Artichoke seeds take anywhere from 10 to 21 days to germinate or sprout. Because artichoke seeds have such slow and finicky germination, and need to be started so early, I don’t recommend direct sowing seeds outside.

Plant seeds 1/4″ deep in a light fluffy seedling soil mix. Sow two to three seeds per pot or cell to make up for poor germination. Put the seed trays in a warm location (70-80 F) under ample bright light. The use of a seedling heat mat and grow light is ideal for success! Keep the soil damp (not soggy) at all times during germination, and use a humidity dome to prevent the soil from drying out. After they sprout, thin the seedlings to one per cell or pot. Avoid overwatering. Be sure to harden off indoor-grown seedlings before transplanting them outside! Learn more seed starting best practices here.

A young artichoke plant is growing in a wine barrel next to a flowering chive plant.
A young artichoke seedling. Note the chive companion plant, explained more in the pest control section below!

How many artichokes does each plant produce?

Most artichoke varieties produce about 5 to 8 artichokes per plant. Some can produce up to a dozen or more! Each plant will produce a few large artichokes on a central branching stalk, along with several smaller secondary artichokes that grow from side shoots. 

Artichokes grown as perennials will often produce more (and higher quality) artichokes in their second, third, and following years compared to the first year they were planted. We’ve already harvested over 40 artichokes from 4 established plants this spring! After a spring harvest, you can encourage the production of a second fall harvest by pruning the plants down to the ground. 

An artichoke plant is in full view with a handful of green globes growing out of the top of tall stalks. A few are more elongated and starting to open slightly.
A close up of a baby choke growing out of the crotch of a stem.
More secondary chokes on the way

Organic Pest Control for Artichokes

Unfortunately, many pest insects seem to love artichokes just as much as we do! Therefore, growing artichokes may require a little TLC at times. But it’s not difficult to do – and well worth the effort! Thankfully, we’ve found that the more full and established the plants become, the less pest pressure there is per artichoke. Cutting back the plants each year also helps remove lingering pests or disease. 

The most common artichoke pests include aphids, pincher bugs or earwigs, and ants (who are attracted to the aphids). Gophers are also highly attracted to artichoke plants, so plan to use gopher baskets if needed. Finally, artichokes are susceptible to fungal diseases like powdery mildew, crown rot, botrytis rot or gray mold. 

A close up of an artichoke growing, the bottom few leaves are being pulled down by a few fingers from a hand to show the aphids hiding underneath the leaves. If you grow artichokes, be sure to check them for pests routinely.
Always check the base of the flower heads for pests – where they love to hide between leaf bracts.

How to get rid of aphids and earwigs on artichokes

It’s easiest to control pest infestations when caught early, so routinely check your plants! Aphids especially like to hide around the lower outer leaves around the artichoke buds (shown above) and on tender new leaf growth, including in the very center of the plant.

Fend off aphids and ants by blasting them away with water. Simply set your hose to a strong stream and spray away, including between and under leaves. Proceed to using a dilute aphid soap spray if that doesn’t work, which should be sprayed directly on the aphids and then rinsed off later. During peak aphid season, I spray my artichoke heads with water weekly. Learn more about organic aphid control here, including our DIY soap spray recipe. 

Companion planting can also help prevent or reduce the presence of pests. For example, earwigs supposedly hate dill, fennel, garlic, calendula, sweet alyssum and cilantro – so plant some near or below the artichoke plants! Sprinkling diatomaceous earth (DE) around the base of artichokes can also help deter earwigs. 

If your artichokes still end up a little buggy despite your best efforts, it’s not the end of the world! After harvest, soak and swirl artichokes in a bowl of cold water with a healthy dose of vinegar or lemon juice added. This will help dislodge many pests, and the acid also helps reduce bitterness. When I notice an artichoke bud is extra buggy (beyond saving) I simply let it bloom so we can all enjoy it – myself and bees included!

A garden hose nozzle is positioned in front of a growing green globe and is spraying the vegetable with a shower of water to knock off any aphids and ants that may be on it. Many leaves of the plant as well as other green globes are in the background. If you row artichokes, minor routine pest control is recommended.
To remove aphids, I always start with a good blast of water…
A three way image collage, the first image shows a hand holding part of a plant while using the other to foliar spray a specific part of the plant. The second image show a leaf that is covered in small black aphids. The third image shows the plant from afar, the sprayer being used to foliar spray the entire plant.
Then proceed to DIY soap spray if needed. This plant had a ton of aphids on the leaves before the heads even developed.

When and How to Harvest Artichokes 

The best time to harvest artichokes is when they’ve grown to a respectable size and feel firm, full, and tight, but before the heads/leaf bracts start to open and separate. It’s not the end of the world if you miss the prime harvest moment thought! We’ve eaten plenty that were just starting to loosen up a bit. Yet if left too long, the artichoke leaves and center will become increasingly tough, bitter, of full of inedible fuzzy choke. Eventually, the artichoke head will open and flower. 

To harvest artichokes, simply cut the stalk a couple inches below the flower bud using a sharp pair of garden shears. Remember that the first few artichokes will usually grow larger than the side shoots to follow. Yet both small and large artichokes are wonderful to eat. In fact, the smaller ones are often more tender, sweet, and “meaty” inside!

Here on the Central Coast of California, we can get a couple good flushes of artichokes per year. For instance, if we cut back the plants in late fall, they regrow over winter and bear fresh artichokes to harvest in spring. After that, we cut them down again to get another harvest in fall.

A birds eye view of two freshly harvested artichokes being held, one in each hand. One is a bit larger and more closed up than the smaller artichoke whose surrounding leaves are opening slightly.
Two artichokes ready for harvest. The one on the bottom was just starting to loosen and open, a sign it was ready and almost past its prime.
A garden shear is positioned below a beautiful green globe growing on the end of a thick stalk for harvest. The clear blue sky is visible in the background.

How to store artichokes after harvest

For maximum freshness, store artichokes in the refrigerator inside a plastic bag or other sealed container. They should stay firm, fresh, and good to eat for several weeks that way. Utilize the crisper drawer if they’ll fit! It’s best to not wash artichokes before storage, only at time of use.

Are artichokes frost tolerant?

Artichokes are tolerant of light frosts once established. When protected, the roots and crown can survive freezing conditions. The above-ground portion of the plant may be damaged in a hard freeze. Though artichoke seedlings need vernalization (chill hours) they are not nearly as hardy as mature plants and should be protected from frost – such as with frost cloth or cloches. 

Pruning and Overwintering Artichoke Plants

Prepare your artichoke plants for winter by cutting them back all the way to the ground after fall harvest. Or, leave just a couple inches of stalk above the soil. In climates expecting freezing conditions, cover the top of the roots and crown area with several inches of aged compost, followed by 6 inches of straw mulch for insulation. Well-mulched artichokes should be able to survive down to 14°F. If temperatures dip below 15°F, consider adding an upside down cardboard box, cooler, or frost cloth over the root area for added protection. 

Gardeners with mild, frost-free winters don’t necessarily have to cut their artichoke plants completely to the ground. However, we’ve found the plants respond very well to it! It removes dead leaves and stems, pests and fungal spores, and gives them a vigorous fresh start. 

I also like to routinely prune and remove some of the plant’s lower leaves as they naturally turn yellow and fade during the growing season. This also helps re-direct energy to the flower buds, increase airflow, and reduce the risk of disease.

A three way image collage, the first image shows new plant shoots coming out of the soil of a raised garden bed. The second image shows the young plants as they continue to grow, about 4-5 in all. The third image shows the same plants growing from a birds eye view above.
Artichokes regrowing after being cut down. This was just a single plant/stalk, and then it grew back about 5 new stalks in a cluster. I only let two continue to grow, and cut back the rest.
A raised bed with mature artichoke plants growing upwards of 3-4 feet tall. On the ground next to the raised beds sits a pile of artichoke leaves that have been pulled from the lower sections of the plants.
About once a month I remove lower leaves that are turning yellow or brown to clean up the plant and reduce crowding. The ones that are ready usually tear off easily.

When and How to Divide Artichoke Plants

Artichokes should be divided every 3 to 5 years. As artichokes grow, the root systems divide to form numerous crowns. Each crown grows a new plant, which can be allowed to grow in a cluster for the first few years. However, I thin them out if needed by cutting back all but two or three plants per cluster as they regrow after pruning. 

As time goes on, mature artichoke plants become overly crowded, reducing the quality and size of the heads. Dividing artichoke plants invigorates new fresh growth, and also creates free artichokes to plant elsewhere! Divide artichokes during the early spring or late fall, as summer dividing may cause excessive stress to the plants. You can do it when the plants are fully cut back or just starting to re-grow. 

To divide artichokes, start by brushing back the soil around the base of the plant so you can identify each offshoot (pup) in the root crown. Then use a shovel to firmly dig straight down between the offshoots to sever the roots between them. Next, carefully dig wide and deep around each pup, trying to keep a substantial root ball intact for each section. Finally, transplant the newly divided artichoke pup to a new location (preferably already amended and prepared in advance). Water well after transplanting.

Inside of a raised bed is shown, two mature plant trunks are shown amongst a smaller, younger plant that is tarting to grow from the crown.
Two mature artichoke stalks with a third new sprout emerging. We’ll cut back the mature ones soon (to the ground) and let the new one grow – along with another sprout or two that will emerge after the cut back. We’ll probably divide these plants next year.

Preparing Artichokes to Eat

There are a number of ways to cook and eat artichokes: steamed, boiled, roasted, grilled, stuffed and more! The prime edible portion is the thick fleshy part at the base of the leathery leaves (scraped off with your teeth), along with the tender inner leaves and heart. Steaming or boiling artichokes is the most simple and straightforward way to enjoy them. See a full tutorial on how to easily cook and eat artichokes here! We’ve been roasting/steaming our artichokes in the oven lately, explained in the photo caption below.

No matter the method, you’ll want to avoid eating the fuzzy, fibrous, pokey “choke” part in the center – located just above the heart. You can either halve the artichokes to cut it out or remove the choke part before cooking them, or leave artichokes whole and simply eat around it later. If they’re extra spiny, you may also want to trim off the tops of the leaves. But definitely enjoy eating the heart; that’s arguably the best part! 

You’ll often see lemon served alongside artichokes. One, because the bright acid helps to reduce any bitterness in the chokes. Two, because cooking with or rubbing lemon on artichokes helps reduce the oxidation that quickly occurs when artichokes are cut and otherwise turn brown.

A birds eye view of a large stock pot with two green globes in the bottom along with two lemons that have been cut in half. A small amount of water is in the bottom as well.
Steaming or boiling artichokes whole is the easiest way to prepare them. Learn how here, including tips on how to eat it once it’s done.
A hand is holding an artichoke that has been cut in half lengthwise. A red line has been superimposed on the image along where the inedible fuzzy choke is located. Beyond are a number of whole artichokes as well as the other half of the one in hand.
To clean an artichoke before cooking, cut it in half, and then carefully cut/scoop along this line (just above the heart) to remove the inedible fuzzy choke.
A hand is holding half an artichoke after the fuzzy choke has been removed. Below is a glass baking dish with many halved artichokes that have already been prepared.
All cleaned out and ready to be dolled up. You can see how the ones in the background are quickly oxidizing and turning brown, which is purely cosmetic but can be prevented by immediately rubbing lemon on them.
Beautiful green globes have been cut in half, sitting face up in a glass baking dish with a dollop of butter and a slice of lemon laid over the top of each one. Grow artichokes for delicious meals.
Our current go-to way to cook artichokes: halve and remove the choke, add a clove of garlic, pad of butter, and slice of lemon in each cavity, drizzle over a little olive oil, generous squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add a splash of water to the bottom of pan (about half a cup), then cover and bake on 425F for 55 minutes or until tender. SO GOOD!

Can you preserve artichokes? 

It is difficult to preserve the edible outer leaf portion of artichoke buds, but you can preserve the tender inner leaves and hearts. Artichoke hearts can be frozen, preserved in oil, pickled, or pressure-canned. It’s best to preserve cooked artichokes, not raw.

To be honest, we typically don’t bother with preserving our chokes. We eat as many as possible fresh, and always allow several to flower for the pollinators too! Even the author of this well-rated marinated pickled artichoke recipe admits “processing all these baby artichokes will take some time, and, well, generate a lot of waste.” But I won’t knock it until I try it! It does seem like a good use of all the small side shoots – especially when you have a large bounty on your hands.

A flowering green globe with many purple pistils emanating from the center of the head. A raised bed garden is in the background as the sun is beginning to set. Grow artichokes for food while leaving a few for the pollinators.

And that’s how to grow, harvest, and use artichokes!

Oof, that was a hefty one, eh? As you can see, there are a quite a few unique nuances to growing artichokes. But now that you know all the tricks, I hope you feel empowered and excited to grow artichokes of your own too! Let me know if you have questions in the comments below. If you learned something new today, please consider pinning or sharing this post! Thank you so much for tuning in today. Happy artichoke growing… and eating!

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